DND eyeing 3-5 military camps for US forces

By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 02 2014 05:20 PM | Updated as of May 03 2014 02:01 AM

MANILA - A Department of National Defense (DND) official on Friday revealed that three to five Philippine military camps are being eyed for use of US forces under the two nations' recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who serves as the chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel for the EDCA, said only a portion of the agreed locations will be shared with the US troops.

He said the number of locations will already be sufficient to implement the EDCA's objectives. 

"These AFP bases will be the locations for prepositioning activities and construction activities," he said.

"The direction of the DND and AFP when identifying the agreed locations would be to limit and delineate only a limited portion or a limited area of the agreed AFP base which would be shared to the US... It will not be the AFP base as a whole because we need that AFP base," he said.

Batino named Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, home of the Army's 7th Infantry Division and Special Operations Command, as one of the ideal locations, noting that it has always been used for Balikatan exercises.

But he said this will still be subject to further study and approval of the DND.

The official, meanwhile, clarified that the former American bases in Subic Freeport in Zambales and Clark Airfield in Pampanga are not included in the agreed locations.

He said the AFP is only requesting for portions of Subic to give home to the two Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the US over the past several years as well as fighter jets that are due to be acquired under the AFP modernization program.

When asked whether the DND and AFP are striving to secure parts of Subic for the American troops, he said: "No. This is for the AFP."

Meanwhile, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, also a member of the negotiating panel, said they are confident that the EDCA is on solid legal ground and does not need Senate ratification because it is not a treaty.

He pointed out that permanent basing of US forces in the Philippines has three conditions -- extraterritorial, exclusive use and ownership -- all of which are not present in the EDCA.

Malaya also noted that EDCA is just a framework agreement. Its implementing rules and guidelines and other annexes will still have to be talked about and approved by the Philippine government, he said.

After the signing of the agreement, both sides will have to thresh out the details including the agreed locations for EDCA, he said.